Brewing Schools, institutions of higher learning that offer programs designed specifically for aspiring brewing professionals. They provide formal practical and theoretical training in those branches of science and engineering that are relevant for beer making on a commercial scale in a modern brewery. People have brewed for at least 8,000 years, but brewing schools, perhaps surprisingly, are a phenomenon of only the past 150 years. Before that time, brewers essentially learned their craft by doing it and were often taught by family members. In the early Middle Ages, brewing knowledge resided mostly among the learned friars in the monasteries, who, being literate, were able to write down recipes, perfect their techniques, and pass on their knowledge over time. As secular brewing arose in the high Middle Ages, brewers’ training became regularized in the form of a three-tier tradesman’s training process, in which an aspiring brewer started at the bottom as an apprentice, then took to the road as an itinerant journeyman, finally to settle down as a master brewer. The entire system was regulated by closed-shop tradesmen guilds that issued certificates and controlled both entry into and advancement within the profession.
The beginning of the industrial and scientific revolutions of the 1800s, however, turned brewing irrevocably from an intuitive craft into a process based on sophisticated scientific and engineering knowledge. It became clear that the old practical training provided by the traditional vocational system needed to be supplemented with an academic education, at least for the brewmasters themselves, and possibly for other brewery workers as well. In addition to being able to perform the labor required for malting, mashing, lautering, fermenting, and packaging beer, brewers now need to be able to operate complex machinery, maximize the use of costly raw materials, and maintain the consistent microbiological quality of the final product. As brewing became a marriage of craft, science, and engineering, modern brewing schools stepped in as repositories and promulgators of knowledge that the medieval training system could no longer supply.
In addition to teaching students basic brewing skills, modern professional brewing education also allows students to move on to various specialized fields—from mechanical process engineering to brewing chemistry, microbiology, ecology, raw materials agronomy, and automation technology. Different countries around the world offer varied programs and study opportunities, as well as different certificates and degrees. These are largely based on their different social and cultural traditions, but all brewing schools seem to fall into two categories: institutions that offer primarily academic study programs with a focus on scientific and engineering theory and practice and institutions that offer primarily brewing vocational instruction, more in line with the apprentice and journeyman traditions of the past.
Particularly in Germany these two tracks have a long history. A German university-level brewing education consists of graduate studies either exclusively in brewing science and beverage technology or in a related field, such as biotechnology and food science, which permits a specialization in the field of brewing. A graduate of an academic degree program can generally expect to take a management position in industry in beer production, quality operations, packaging, industrial engineering, or other technological, biological, and biochemical functions in the brewery. The occupational profile of academic graduates also includes careers in laboratories and research institutes.
Perhaps the two most prominent German academic brewing schools, which are also global pioneers in brew science education, are the Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei in Berlin (VLB) at the Technical University Berlin (TUB) and the Weihenstephan Center for Life and Food Sciences, Land Use, and Environment at the Technical University Munich (TUM).
On the practical side is the uniquely German system of “dual vocational training.” It offers parallel training in real-world brewing and malting companies combined with professional–vocational training in classroom settings. Students essentially alternate between going to work and going to school. Such programs are structured as 3-year apprenticeships for brewers and maltsters. The only entry and eligibility requirement for such dual vocational training is the completion of a German elementary school or a high school diploma. Doemens Academy of Gräfelfing, near Munich, was founded in 1895 as a German private brewing school specializing in secondary polytechnic training and seminars for certified journeymen. These programs last between a few weeks and 2 years. Some of these tracks allow students to graduate as credentialed brewmasters and maltmasters.
In the UK, the center for academic brewing studies is the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. It offers a full-fledged honors and master’s degree program in brewing and distilling.
In the United States, the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California at Davis has long been a leader in brewing education. Although better known for its world-class winemaking courses, it offers a specialization in brewing sciences as part of its undergraduate degree program. Available brewing programs there range from short brewing courses to an 18-week program. A similar Department of Food Science and Technology also operates at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. Finally, the American Brewers Guild offers long-distance courses for working and would-be brewers who cannot attend face-to-face classes. This popular program includes a brewery internship. Other industry-related programs include the World Brewing Academy curriculum, which is a joint venture of Doemens Academy and the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois.
Today, more and more universities all over the world are offering courses and curricula focused on brewing science and technology. These include Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia, and the University of Ballarat, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia; Massy University in Palmerston North, New Zealand; the International Centre for Brewing and Brewing Engineering at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa; and the Institute Français de Boisson de la Brasserie et de la Maltérie in Vandoeuvie, France.
Brewing schools, of course, are no substitute for a brewer’s creativity in formulating beer recipes. Just as art academies cannot instill or replace an artist’s innate talent, brewing schools cannot “teach” imagination. However, they can supply training in basic brewing techniques and beer styles as well as the scientific basis for the biochemical and mechanical processes that take place in a brewery. They can also institute a system of standardized evaluations and tests, both practical and theoretical, by which a student’s progress and achievement can be measured. Finally, they can certify a student’s competence and thus create a cadre of brewing professionals for a burgeoning worldwide brewing industry.